Asking for repeats is a fairly common event. In any normal conversation between people, there will times when one person will not hear or understand what the other has said. The probability that this will happen increases greatly when taking an order in a crowded restaurant or checking in a group of boisterous chattering travelers. There are several expressions that can be used to ask for a repeat. Look at the expressions below.

Expressions Asking for Repeats

Excuse me.
Pardon me.
Please say that again.
Can you repeat that please?
I’m sorry.
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.


Guest: Could I have more soap in the bathroom?
Staff: I’m sorry; could you repeat that, please?
Guest: I need more soap.

Guest: Which way to the gym?
Staff: Pardon me.
Guest: How do I get to the gym?

Guest: I’d like to schedule a tennis game.
Staff: I’m sorry sir; could you say that again.
Guest: I want to reserve a tennis court.

Of course, there are other things that hinder communication besides not hearing someone. For example, unknown vocabulary words or idiomatic expressions that the listener does not understand, or the speaker is just talking way too fast for the listener to comprehend. Fortunately there are expression that can be used to cover these situation as well. Look at these examples.

Please speak more slowly.
I’m sorry; I don’t understand that expression.
What does _________ mean?
Can you give me an example?
I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.

Guest: Do you have any Tabasco sauce?
Staff: Tabasco sauce? I’m sorry; I don’t know what that is.
Guest: It’s a hot sauce. It comes in a small bottle. It’s put on pizza and tacos.

Guest: Does this dish have any shrimp in it?
Staff: Excuse me, I didn’t understand that. Could you speak more slowly?
Guest: This dish, is there shrimp in it?

Guest: It’s raining cats and dogs out there.
Staff: Raining cats and dogs? I don’t understand that expression.
Guest: That expression just means that it is raining a lot.
Staff: Aah, I see.

Point to Remember
Sometimes it may be helpful if a guest asks for something to be repeated, to rephrase what was said by using different words. The guest may not understand a particular word’s meaning or have trouble understanding the pronunciation of a specific word. By re-phrasing, communication may be facilitated.

Practice Conversation Activities- Asking for repeats

1. Role Play

Practice using the above expressions by having a dialogue similar to the ones above with a partner, one partner taking the role of the guest and the other the role of the staff. For additional practice, switch roles. Practice the dialogue several times, trying to use all of the expressions noted above.

2. Whole Class Activity- Appropriate Responses

The teacher should go around the room and ask students questions that have difficult vocabulary, are mumbled, or are incomprehensible. Say it so they are forced to practice the phrases used when asking for repeats.

3. Group Activity- A Skit

Divide the class into groups of 2 or 3. Students work together to develop a skit that is grammatically correct about guests asking for repeats. Remember, the staff should have limited English ability and poor pronunciation, so no matter what they say, the guest still do not seem to understand. Use gestures, sign language, and facial expressions to make yourself understood. Once the skit is developed, students present it to the teacher and the rest of class. The teacher judges the skit based on grammar and language use, originality, and acting ability. Be a little silly and have fun!

Other Links
Asking for Repetitions
Repeat that please